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Global Content Impact Index Report

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Acrolinx reviewed 150,000 individual, public-facing web
pages from 340 companies around the world. That represents 20 million sentences and over 160 million words.

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Global Content Impact Index Report

  1. 1. March 2015 20,000,000 sentences 150,000 public-facing web pages 340 companies 40 industries 31 countries 1 Content Impact Index The Global Content Impact Index Measuring Content from Some of the Best Brands in the World
  2. 2. 2 ACROLINX · GLOBAL CONTENT IMPACT INDEX MARCH 2015 In January 2015, Acrolinx launched a research project to read and evaluate the world’s content. Using a proprietary linguistic analytics engine, our software reviewed 150,000 individual, public-facing web pages from 340 companies around the world. That represents 20 million sentences and over 160 million words. Content marketing is one of the highest priorities for today’s marketers, with growth rates for content development and distribution skyrocketing. According to the Content Marketing Institute, for example, 70 percent of marketers are investing more in content marketing than ever before.1 A recent research report from global market intelligence firm IDC further underscores the point, noting that “building out content marketing as an organizational competency” is one of CMOs’ most important initiatives, second only to measuring ROI.2 Although over the past few years content marketing has rapidly cemented its position among CMOs as a strategic priority, it’s still just beginning to emerge from its infancy. In fact, most leading indicators suggest that the industry still has a long way to go to reach maturity. One of the most revealing of them is how content marketers view their own work. As recently as October 2014, for example, only 42 percent of B2B marketers thought their content was effective, while among B2C marketers, confidence rates were even lower at just 34 percent.3 When it comes to explaining this underwhelming performance, the marketing community often cites a lack of strategy as the main culprit. In fact, according to research from Altimeter Group, 70 percent of marketers lack a consistent or integrated content strategy.4 But that’s only part of the problem. After all, even the very best strategy won’t translate into effective content if your writing isn’t very good. This is an obvious but nevertheless important point because it’s often overlooked. Many marketers simply count on the sheer quantity of their output or their ability to amplify their messages through new tools and technologies to save the day. That approach may work for a short time, but it’s not a winning solution over the long term. The key to creating successful content that achieves a desired impact is ensuring that it’s really good, and that starts with the quality of the writing. 1 The Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, “Content Marketing Budgets, Benchmarks and Trends,” October 2014. 2 IDC, “What Is Content Marketing? One of Marketing’s Most Critical New Competencies,” November 2014. 3 The Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, “Content Marketing Budgets, Benchmarks and Trends,” October 2014. 4 Altimeter Group, “The 2014 State of Digital Transformation,” July 2014. 70 percent of marketers are investing more in content marketing, but most aren’t satisfied with the effectiveness of their content.
  3. 3. 3 ACROLINX · GLOBAL CONTENT IMPACT INDEX MARCH 2015 When attention to quality is overlooked, things tend to fall apart quickly. Consider, for example, that according to a survey by translation service provider Global Lingo, 74 percent of respondents are conscious of the quality of spelling and grammar on company websites. Of them, 59 percent indicated that bad grammar and careless spelling mistakes would prevent them from making a purchase from a website because they wouldn’t trust the company to provide good service.5 How’s that for the impact of content quality on effectiveness? Not only does content quality impact audience perceptions, search engines like Google and Bing are just as unforgiving. Bing’s Duane Forrester notes, for example, that “just as you’re judging others’ writing, so the engines judge yours. If you struggle to get past typos, why would an engine show a page of content with errors higher in the rankings when other pages of content exist to serve the searcher?” Of course, content quality is about a lot more than just spelling and grammar. It’s also determined by other critically important, and yet often overlooked factors, like style, tone, and clarity, which are just as essential to engage your audience, build trust, and create a better overall customer experience. It was against this backdrop that Acrolinx launched this research initiative focused on measuring content quality. For this initial report, we used our linguistic analytics software to evaluate the content from 340 companies spanning a variety of industries, from retail and financial services, to aerospace and automotive, to high tech and manufacturing. We focused on larger organizations with more than $250 million in annual revenue, most of which are brands you will be familiar with, such as Gucci, Exxon Mobil, and Harley-Davidson. We also looked at various types of content, including marketing and customer support content as well as corporate communications and technical productcontent. We evaluated and scored the content based on its quality and clarity and established benchmark targets based on best practices. Collectively, this data forms our Global Content Impact Index, which we are introducing in the pages that follow and that we will update and extend on a quarterly basis going forward. Creating this index is our way of casting a light on a very important yet often underappreciated aspect of content marketing: the value of creating engaging, impactfulcontent. Our Approach We evaluated the overall quality of the content by analyzing it across two main dimensions: grammar and style. To assess a company’s grammar usage, we examined its content against bestpractices for standard grammar conventions and then calculated how many errors it contained on average per 1,000 words. Examples of the types of issues we looked for include subject/verb agreement and 5 Global Lingo, Research Report, November 2013. Content quality matters. According to a recent survey, 59 percent of respondents said that bad grammar and spelling mistakes would prevent them from purchasing from a website.
  4. 4. ACROLINX · GLOBAL CONTENT IMPACT INDEX MARCH 2015 use of pronouns and double negatives. Similarly, we evaluated each company’s style based on 62 separate rules and writing practices (the kind that you find in The Chicago Manual of Style) and on our years of linguistic experience. Our software looked at the companies’ use of language and structure to identify a variety of style issues. Next we looked at clarity, which is a measure of how easy a piece of content is to read and understand — something that’s particularly important when you’re trying to communicate complex ideas. Weevaluated the clarity of each company’s content by looking at various factors, such as sentence length, structural complexity, and word choice. As part of our analysis, we gave each company a score for quality and clarity using a 100-point scale. Using a proprietary algorithm, we then used these results to derive an overall content impact score for each company — a measure of how effective we believe that their writing is. In our more than a decade of experience, we have determined that companies need to achieve an A Connection Between Content Quality and Alexa Rankings? In addition to our own content scoring, we looked at an external measure of content performance — Alexa website rankings. Among the companies we reviewed, we found that those with the highest content impact scores saw on average a 22 percent improvement in their Alexa rankings over the past six months. Conversely, the companies with the lowest content impact scores saw on average a 9 percent decrease in their rankings over the same time period (see Figure 1). Admittedly, many factors go into computing a website’s Alexa score, but it’s an interesting observation nonetheless. Figure 1: Alexa Website Rankings – Six-Month Trends Jan ‘15 Mar ‘15Oct ‘14 Dec ‘14 Sample from companies with low content impact scores Oct ‘14 Feb ‘15 Sample from companies with high content impact scores
  5. 5. 5 ACROLINX · GLOBAL CONTENT IMPACT INDEX MARCH 2015 overall content impact score of 72 or higher in order for their content to be effective. As we’ll see, most companies have not yet reached that level of content sophistication. A look at the results Among the 340 companies whose website content we evaluated, overall content impact scores ranged from 55 through 85 points as shown in Figures 2 and 3, representing a substantial variance. Importantly, only 31 percent of those companies reached or exceeded our target benchmark score of 72. Based on this data we see that despite the growing adoption of content marketing globally, maturity levels differ significantly. And, considering that more than two-thirds of the companies we reviewed (69 percent) had an overall content impact score of below 72, we believe there’s a tremendous need for content marketers to renew their focus on improving content quality and clarity. Analyzing the data from a regional and industry perspective further underscores that this is a global problem. As Figure 4 shows, while content quality tends to be relatively consistent from region to region (with scores of 69.5 for the Americas; 69.8 for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa; and 68.1 for Asia Pacific), they’re all below the 72 point benchmark. It’s a similar story when you look at the industry breakdowns with one exception — the retail sector — earning a score of 73.2. It’s important to point out that these findings are preliminary. As we accumulate more data, our intent is to refine, update, and expand this index on a quarterly basis, offering new and more detailed insights in future installments of this report. Figure 2: Scatter Plot of Content Impact Scores by Company 85 65 80 60 75 55 70 50 IMPACT SCORE INDIVIDUAL COMPANIES NUMBEROF COMPANIES 50-55 160 80 140 60 120 40 100 20 0 IMPACT SCORE 56-60 61-65 66-71 72-80 80-90 Figure 3: Content Impact Score Distribution
  6. 6. 6 ACROLINX · GLOBAL CONTENT IMPACT INDEX MARCH 2015 70 percent of marketers are investing more in content marketing, but most aren’t satisfied with the effectiveness of their content. Figure 4: Content Impact Scores by Region and Industry Americas 69.5 High85.7 Low 49.3 US 70.2 EMEA 69.8 High85.7 Low 54.6 Germany70.2 France 69.6 UK 67.4 APAC 68.1 High81.6 Low 57.6 Australia66.9 INDUSTRY SCORES Retail 73.2 B2B Tech 71.2 Automotive68.1 Food & Beverage 67.5 Fashion71.3 Banking69.8 Manufacturing68.0 Telecom 66.2
  7. 7. ACROLINX · GLOBAL CONTENT IMPACT INDEX MARCH 2015 While our objective at this stage isn’t to call out specific top- performing companies, we did want to showcase a few examples of companies that are creating high-quality, readable content that we believe is extremely effective. These companies include: “Enjoy a refreshed and refurbished home with home decor and furniture from Kohl’s! Whether you’re overhauling your space or just tweaking your home’s design, you’re sure to find pieces and accents in the styles you want. From feminine shabby chic to more masculine sleek and modern, Kohl’s home furnishings add color, texture and function to your home.” “Like much of the northeastern United States, the town of Afton, New York, has been buried — literally — with snow this winter. Good thing the community has a new Cat® CT681 Vocational Truck on the job. ‘The town wanted to borrow it for the Christmas parade,’ says Kirk Hoyt, the truck’s operator. ‘We said they couldn’t — we were using it to plow snow!’” “Think of your car like your body — would you carry a backpack if you didn’t need to? Of course not: it’d make you tired, thirsty, grumpy and give you a sore back. Your car’s the same — the more weight it carries, the more fuel it uses (and the more wear and tear there is on tyres, the chassis and suspension). The long-term effects mean a rest break at the mechanic, and more money spent on maintenance.” “Tech should make your life simpler, faster, more entertaining. It should make you fitter, happier, smarter. And most importantly it should be exciting and fun. So what are you waiting for? Make friends with tech and unleash a digital you with more amazing possibilities.” American department store Kohl’s has clearly taken care to create content with a warm, friendly, and invitingstyle: Another top performer, Caterpillar, is a company that’s known for implementing content strategy on a massive scale. Despite the high-tech engineering detail that their content needs to communicate, the company excels at connecting its technology with specific needs as seen in this recent blog post. From Down Under, National Australia Bank provides a great example of how financial services firms can go beyond the numbers to provide practical advice for their audience. European mobile carrier EE also provides an excellent example of an engaging, conversational tone. In the “Clever New Tech” section of its site you’ll find content like this:
  8. 8. 8 ACROLINX · GLOBAL CONTENT IMPACT INDEX MARCH 2015 IS YOUR CONTENT YOUR COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE OR YOUR DOWNFALL? Although content has proven itself to be a critically important component of successful marketing in today’s online world, all too often companies are sacrificing the quality of their content for quantity. As we’ve seen, most of the 340 companies we reviewed as part of our initial look at global content quality are producing content that doesn’t measure up. We believe those companies, and the countless others just like them, will be handicapped if they don’t start paying more attention to their content quality. In upcoming editions of this report, we will take a much deeper dive into various aspects of content quality as part of our ongoing goal to help companies create better content.
  9. 9. www.acrolinx.de